Washington, D.C. – The Barbara Bush Foundation is pleased to mark the 20th anniversary of its award-winning Teen Trendsetters® reading mentoring program.
Teen Trendsetters is a reading mentoring program that pairs teen mentors with students in first, second and third grades who are, on average, four months behind in reading. Teens receive training as reading mentors, and meet regularly with their mentees for one-on-one mentoring sessions, using targeted strategies and activities to build literacy skills and confidence.
The program began in 2002, under the leadership of then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush, with 30 students in five Florida counties. The students were trained to mentor third graders who needed extra help in reading – empowering the teen mentors to serve as role models and change agents in their own communities, while helping to boost literacy skills in struggling young readers.
Since its inception, the program has served more than 38,000 students and families across 18 states, with teen mentors providing more than 740,000 hours of volunteer services and more than 575,000 books distributed to mentees to build their home libraries. During the 2021-2022 school year, the Barbara Bush Foundation operated Teen Trendsetters programs in Florida, Maine, Maryland and Texas. In 2021, Teen Trendsetters was honored with a Best Practices Award by the Library of Congress Literacy Awards.
Teen Trendsetters is regularly evaluated by independent researchers, achieving impressive results. Yearly third-party evaluations show that overall, elementary mentees progress one grade level or more in reading after seven months in the program. This corresponds to 56% more growth than would be expected for an average student during this time period. Additionally, teen mentors gain community service hours and report improved leadership, communication, and teamwork skills.
In addition to boosting literacy skills in young readers, the program provides resources that equip parents to fulfill their essential role as – in the words of Barbara Bush – their child’s “first and best teacher.” Each book that children read with their teen mentor is added to their home libraries, accompanied by a parent guide that engages caregivers by providing literacy activities for home. Parent guides also provide free access to an adult literacy app for parents who wish to improve their own literacy skills without attending classes.
“We are incredibly proud of all that this program has achieved over the past two decades,” said British A. Robinson, president and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation. “By helping struggling young readers catch up with their peers, encouraging volunteerism and leadership skills in teen mentors, and providing parents and caregivers with tools to build their own literacy skills, we are making a multigenerational impact.”
As the Foundation celebrates the program’s 20th anniversary, it is excited to expand the program into two new states – Connecticut and Oklahoma – and relaunch it with a new name that emphasizes its focus on literacy skills and relationship-building: ReadSquad.
“The mentoring relationship – that special bond between the young readers and their mentors – is an enormous part of this program’s success, and we believe that this new name captures that element,” said Robinson. “We look forward to building on the achievements of the past 20 years and changing even more lives through literacy with ReadSquad.”
About the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has been the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy for more than three decades. Established by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, the Foundation is a public charity dedicated to creating a stronger, more equitable America in which everyone can read, write and comprehend in order to navigate the world with dignity.